- A day after Canada announced it would expel a Chinese diplomat over allegations of involvement in a campaign to intimidate a Canadian politician, China has declared a Canadian diplomat in Shanghai as persona non grata.
What is persona non grata?
- Persona non grata is a Latin phrase which means “unwelcome person.”
- In diplomacy, it refers to a diplomat or foreign person whose entering or remaining in a certain country has been prohibited by that country.
- The designation received diplomatic meaning at the 1961 Vienna Convention for Diplomatic Relations.
- Article 9 of the treaty mentions that a country can declare any member of a diplomatic staff persona non grata “at any time and without having to explain its decision.”
- Soon after the declaration, the person concerned usually returns to their home nation. In case they fail to do so within a reasonable period, the country “may refuse to recognise the person concerned as a member of the mission.”
- The article also says that a person can be declared persona non grata even before arriving in a country.
When is it used?
- There aren’t any fixed rules regarding when a country can declare a foreign person persona non grata as it doesn’t need to give an explanation according to Article 9 of the Vienna Convention.
- Historically speaking, countries have used it to express their discontent with the actions of other nations.
- During the Cold War, it became a “tit-for-tat” sanction as both the US and the Soviet Union liberally declared each other’s diplomats persona non grata.
About Vienna Convention
- The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (VCDR) was signed in 1961 as an international treaty that defines a framework for diplomatic relations between independent countries.
- It specifies the privileges of a diplomatic mission that enable diplomats to perform their function without fear of coercion or harassment by the host country.
- This forms the legal basis for diplomatic immunity. Its articles are considered a cornerstone of modern international relations.
- The Convention is nearly universally ratified, with Palau and South Sudan being the exceptions.